I’ll come out and say it, Gabriel Moreno is the next big thing for the Blue Jays.
The number one prospect in the organization just finished off a very successful season in the minor leagues. The catcher followed that up by receiving rave reviews in the Arizona Fall League and is now crushing the ball in the Venezuelan Winter League. All this being said, Moreno is knocking on the door to the big leagues. We as fans should get our first look at him at the Rogers Centre at some point this upcoming season. Today we’ll be looking at what exactly his 2022 may look like.
We’ve been fed these lies before as Jays’ fans. In recent memory, we’ve seen the likes of Kyle Drabek, Travis Snider, Max Pentecost, and Anthony Alford (great guy), all come up and disappoint. I firmly don’t believe this to be the case with Moreno. His plate approach, ability to drive the ball to all fields, athleticism, and success in the minor leagues he’s played in are great indicators to show that this will hopefully translate at the highest level. The Blue Jays already have a catcher, arguably two of them. What has to happen for Moreno to make an impact in 2022?
A mid-season thumb injury limited Moreno’s 2021 output. While his numbers were still incredible, hitting .367 with a 1.060 over 37 games, more progress could have been made. He most likely would’ve seen a lot more AAA at-bats had he not gotten hurt. Regardless, he still made it to AAA at the end of the season. He played three games as with the Bisons, picking up a single hit in 10 plate appearances. This call-up is an indication of where the Blue Jays front office and player development group see him in his development. They see that he is far along and ready to contribute. This factor, paired with him being already on the 40-man roster, indicates that Moreno’s time is now.
An overview of what Blue Jays prospect Gabriel Moreno’s 2022 season might look like. Where he starts, how he’ll get called up, and how he’ll contribute.
Despite his spot on the roster, it’s not as simple as it seems. The Blue Jays currently have three major league catchers. Both analytics and the Blue Jays front office love Danny Jansen. His plus defensive skills paired with his quietly streaky hitting ability makes him a valuable piece; he’s going to receive a lot of starts behind the dish. Alejandro Kirk is another name in the mix. Despite him being rumoured in many trade talks, Kirk is seen as a talented hitter and capable pitch framer. At only 23 years old, Kirk could be around for a while. The last of the three catchers is Reese McGuire. An adequate hitter and skilled fielder, he’s essentially Jansen just without the offensive potential. In summation, these three guys are an obstacle to Moreno’s spot on the Major League roster.
Moreno’s path to the MLB begins in Buffalo.
In my eyes, given the Blue Jays catching depth, Moreno starts next year in Buffalo. I’d love to see him receive starts in Spring Training but I don’t see him breaking camp with the rest of the team. From here he has to crush AAA pitching and prove his bat belongs in the MLB. The front office will acknowledge that his bat is ready, and accommodate accordingly. In a scenario where the Blue Jays have both Jansen and Kirk on a roster, Charlie Montoyo will have to get creative about how to provide Moreno with at-bats.
The most obvious position for Moreno is catcher. Load management is more important for catchers than any other position. Swapping between three options is a viable strategy, and would provide Moreno with at-bats.
Another option for Moreno to contribute is as the DH. The Jays don’t have a primary designated hitter. Not since Kendrys Morales has the Blue Jays held a single-player mainly in that spot. This being said, they now use the DH to alternate hitters through. If Moreno is contributing he could earn the larger portion of at-bats acting as the team’s DH. The last option is Moreno making starts at third base. At this point in the offseason, thanks to the lockout, the Blue Jays have yet to make improvements to the infield. In the event this current makeup stays the same, Moreno should have the opportunity to receive starts at third base. He’s played three games at the position in 2021, between the minors and winter league.
With all this in consideration, Moreno will be presented with multiple options to contribute once he arrives in the Major Leagues. This of course hinges on him producing in AAA once the season begins. Buffalo will be a fun team to watch early next April, with Moreno leading the charge. Once Moreno hits over a AAA level, he can be brought up to Toronto and be given opportunities to contribute. Those chances could be done at either catching, DHing, or taking a spot on the infield.